Desert Dwellers Share How They Came Together And Started Making Downtempo in iEDM Exclusive Interview
Desert Dwellers are known as some of the kings of downtempo electronic music, but they produce and play so much more than that. Throughout a Desert Dwellers set you may hear psytrance to tech house, layered with downtempo dub defining their creative and unique style.
Desert Dwellers is a collaborative project from Amani Friend and Treavor Moontribe. They have both been involved in the West Coast electronic scene since the 90s which is where they crossed paths. For the last 16 years, they have been creating worldly electronic music and releasing albums varying from their original downtempo tracks to yoga tunes and playing festivals across the country.
The first time I heard of Desert Dwellers was years ago when a close friend wouldn't stop talking about how it was the best electronic show he had ever seen. He then brought them out for an epic night that will be forever talked about in my hometown because it was one of the best renegade dance shows ever. Desert Dwellers put on one of the most unique live shows in the electronic spectrum.
iEDM got the chance to sit down with both Amani and Treavor to talk about how they started Desert Dwellers and how it's evolved to today.
iEDM: You guys both have your own solo projects. How did you come together as Desert Dwellers?
Amani: Well we were both involved in doing electronic gatherings in the 90s in the desert. Treavor grew up in LA and was part of the infamous moon tribe. He is one of the founders.
I was doing stuff in New Mexico, also desert parties all night long. We were bringing out Moontribe DJs and there is a lot of cross-pollination between those two scene in particular so we met around 1998 and started making music a year later. We formed Desert Dwellers around 2001.
But we were making uptempo tribal tech house for a couple years. So we had another project name for a couple years called Amani Vs. Teapot. Desert Dwellers was our vision of doing downtempo music and one thing led to another.
iEDM: At this point, I would consider you guys some of the kings of the downtempo music scene, where does the inspiration come from?
Amani: For me, I always felt there was more space because the beats are slower, so there is more room to put more layers of sounds, which is interesting to me. We both have been into world music fused with electronic music for over 20 years, and I think our first attempts at downtempo was that fusion of some really interesting East Indian music and world music with almost Thievery Corporation beats.
Later that turned into doing a lot of yoga music but that sound we found together in 2001 and we made a CD for Burning Man.
Treavor: I think also there's the reality that is slower, chill out music is a more popular scene in the U.S. So it allowed us to play a lot more gigs for that kind of music and so it got more so that's what we focused on. Maybe if we lived in Australia we'd be making psytrance or something. I wouldn't say we ever necessarily switched genres though because we are always doing all of it. I think it was just that in 2011-2012, I think we realized we could get more gigs as Desert Dwellers.
We were both working normal jobs and it was an opportunity for us to focus music solely in live rather than having to work and give our time to things that weren't our passion. It's been this sort of domino effect of opportunities, remix opportunities, and all these new things. I think if you asked me personally 15 years ago if I'd be touring playing slower music I would have said 'no way, that's not possible.' But it ended up being fully possible.
iEDM: I think house music is circling back around in popularity again.
Treavor: I still play house music and so does Amani. My Treavor Moontribe project is focused on house and techno from when I make music, and then I DJ a lot of psytrance and house. I am still doing tons of uptempo stuff all the time too.
Amani: As DJs, it's really fun to be able to play all styles of music. We both love all styles. There's great tracks in every genre.
Trevor: I think it just happened in the last few years the style of house music that we really like has become popular. It goes in waves. Right now the wave is more deep, psychedelic, tribal sound of house music. It's really fun. We love that stuff.
Amani: That is what we were playing when we first met.
Treavor: It's slower than when we first started getting into it now. Back then, the Digweeds and the Sashas were playing that sound but faster. Now it's slower and more fun, we're doing that too.
iEDM: You guys have brought a lot of electronic into the yoga world. What inspired those albums?
Treavor: I wasn't in those projects to begin with. Those projects were Amani and Rara Then we decided to put that music out as Desert Dwellers and Rara would become Desert Dwellers. The first album was them. The second was a lot of remakes of the original Desert Dwellers music, so the first batch Amani and I made together was remixed into the yoga albums.
Amani: That was a whole other collaboration with Shaman stream and everything came out as Desert Dwellers. When we started touring, we tried to make it a trio with Rara, and we would have kept doing that but he decided that he didn't want to tour.
iEDM: What are you excited for on your fall tour that you just announced?
Amani: Yes, we're traveling all over the West Coast and the East Coast?
Treavor: We are doing a big show at the Ogden Theatre in Denver on Nov. 10 and we are combining with Quixotic. Quixotic is putting on a whole stage show for an hour and a half of our music. They are bringing their visual artists, their whole circus artists. The whole Quixotic crew is coming out. We have already started working on that collaboration. That is something that will be really exciting. It helps make the beyond shows we've been doing a little easier because Quixotic is so established in the performance world. We can focus on the music and I think it's going to be a really amazing collaboration.
iEDM: What are you working on now?
Amani: We just finished a remix for Shpongle and a bunch of amazing psychedelic artists. We are coming out of a big remix phase for producing for others. We are mostly going to focus on a new original album this Fall in the downtempo series. It will be everything from ambient to house and downtempo. We are pretty excited about it.
Thank you Amani and Treavor! Check out Desert Dwellers music on their SoundCloud and stay up to date with their tour HERE.
Check out more iEDM exclusive interviews with your favorite artists HERE.
Photo credit: @jessewoodco